Angela’s Lamb Birria


Angela's Lamb Birria

This is a traditional birria recipe with all lamb. Lamb or goat are the preferred meats, but you can do a mix of lamb and beef or only beef if that is what you have. I highly recommend spending the money on lamb! This is traditionally a special occasion dish, due to the lengthy marinating time and long list of ingredients, but it is completely worth it!
You could make this dish in a slow cooker, see notes. You can eat this as a stew or shred it for birriaqueso tacos (in notes). This is a small recipe, for about half a cleaned lamb shoulder. Double it for a whole lamb shoulder.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword birria, birriaqueso, lamb, lamb tacos, mexican lamb stew
Prep Time 1 day 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings 6 servings
Author misangela


  • dutch oven or slow cooker
  • blender or stick blender
  • fine sieve


  • 1.5 lb about half a lamb shoulder, in large chunks I like lamb trimmed of fat and silverskin, keeping just a small amount of fat for the braising, but you can leave all the fat and skim later if you wish. A typical boneless lamb shoulder is about 4-5# before trimming.

Dry Rub

  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dry mustard optional
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp ancho powder Substitute smoked paprika.
  • 2 tsp garlic salt sub kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Braise and Sauce

  • 1 Tbl oil to cook chiles
  • 1 dried guajillo chile, cut open and seeded, remove stem see notes about dried chiles
  • 1 dried New Mexican chile, cut open and seeded, remove stem
  • 1 dried pasilla chile, cut open and seeded, remove stem
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon about 2"
  • 2 tsp whole black peppercorns about 10-15
  • 1 tsp whole cloves about 6-8
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram optional, if skipping double the oregano
  • 1 tsp dried oregano Mexican if you can find it
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced about a cup
  • 1 small onion, diced about 2/3 cup
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ Tbl apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp ancho powder Cayenne is NOT a substitute! Use smoked paprika if you can't find ancho.
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water plus more if needed


  • chopped cilantro
  • finely diced onion
  • lime slices
  • pickled radish or onion see notes
  • crumbled cotija cheese see notes


  • The day before, mix up the dry rub and thoroughly coat the lamb. Put in a plastic zip bag in the fridge until you are ready to cook the next day. You can marinate for a few hours if you're in a pinch, but the longer, the better.
  • Heat a skillet over high with about a Tbl of oil. Sauté the lamb pieces on all sides. Set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, put about 2/3 cup water and bring to a simmer.
  • In same skillet, add more oil and turn down heat to med hi. Add the chiles. Cook until the chiles turn a little darker, it just takes about 2 minutes, do not burn the chiles.
  • Put chiles in the simmering water until they are called for in the recipe.
  • In the same skillet over med hi, add pepper, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, thyme, marjoram and oregano. Stir until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  • Add onions and garlic, turn down heat to medium and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add romas and chiles with the simmering water. Cook until the whole mixture is thickened. About 8 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and add apple cider vinegar, cumin, ginger and ancho.
  • Put this braising mixture in a blender and puree until smooth. Push through a fine sieve to create a smooth sauce for braising. Add 1/2 cup water if cooking in oven, if using a slow cooker, skip the water.
  • Put the lamb in a dutch oven and cook at 300°F for about 3 hours. OR put in a slow cooker on HI for 6-8 hours. If cooking in oven, check at halfway point to see if the sauce is too reduced; if so, add more water. It should be saucy, not dry.
  • Remove lamb from sauce and shred. I leave it larger for stew and shred small for tacos. You could even do stew for dinner and then tacos for leftovers. Check seasoning (salt) and adjust.
  • I keep the sauce separate to control the consistency of the lamb. Check seasoning (salt) and adjust. If it needs more acid, add a bit more vinegar. If you've got a lot of fat, skim fat before serving, otherwise it will be too greasy. The fat will come right off if you refrigerate the sauce.


I highly recommend seeking out dried chiles for this dish. There is not really anything that can substitute for dried chiles. Many chain groceries carry them now, and most towns will have an ethnic market of some sort. If all else fails, you can order from Amazon, but you'll end up with extra - which I hope will inspire you to try other Mexican dishes! You can store the dried chiles in an airtight bag in the pantry. 
For stew, I'd serve with rice and top with cilantro and onions.  Limes on the side. Add as much sauce as you like.
I really like pickled veg with this dish to cut the richness. I made a quick pickle of red onion and radish for the stew. Cut very finely about 2/3 cup veg and pickle in 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar,  1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 2 Tbl water, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar and a few whole allspice or pickling spices. Heat brine to simmer, take off heat and add veg. Let sit until cool. 
For birriaqueso tacos, add sauce to shredded lamb until nicely moist, but not too wet. I use small corn street tacos that I've charred over a burner just a little (ALWAYS cook the tortillas!). Assemble with a little sour cream, the shredded lamb, crumbled cotija cheese, pickled veg (same recipe as above), diced onion and chopped cilantro. Lime on the side. 
Photo courtesy @mylatinatable

Acupuncture for GERD Session #4

Since the previous session, I’ve been taking the new Death Tea™ as directed, but the GERD is back in force. Last week I had several days where every single thing I ingested caused a GERD spike and I was eating Tums by the handful. NOT GOOD.

At the first of this week, I was feeling depressed about the GERD resisting acupuncture and just not in a great space. But the GERD did ease off a little bit this week. You have to remember that when it’s spiking badly, it will wake me up twice every night as well, and I have to eat a Tums. Once a night is bad enough, but twice is pretty bad for sleep quality.

I am tired and feeling gross today, so I knew the acupuncture was going to suck. I almost didn’t go! And I was not surprised when almost every needle hurt. Being overly tired will often read as anxiety to Drs because, for me, my heart rate is elevated when I’m overtired. So she gave me two scalp and a third eye needles today – which did help me relax. The needles even hurt coming out today – which NEVER happens. :(

No cups today, but I did get seeds in the ears for acupressure! They look like this:

acupressure seeds
Acupressure Seeds

I also got a new Death Tea™, since the one she gave me was clearly not working. She said she’s changing tack and give me a more supportive tea rather than trying to take on my issues directly. She said that this tea will support my spleen and help bolster my “good energies”.


Next appointment is 3 wks, on a good luck Friday the 13th! I really hope this new tea works!

Acupuncture for GERD session #3

Today’s session is full of new and exciting things! I allowed electricity to be used and I had some cupping done! FOR SCIENCE!

I’d been having an odd thing happen for almost a week. I was getting a tingly/zingy feeling in my left hand going up the thumb and forefinger. I told Dr Li about this and she said, “Oh, yes, that is your colon meridian. It’s talking to you!” How cool is that? My body is actually TELLING ME what’s up!

Most of the work we’ve done so far has been the colon meridian. As Dr Li puts it, “Things need to move down. They are not moving down.” I would agree! Ever since VSG, my entrails have not worked right. With the PPI, I had diarrhea most of the time and when I stopped that, I have constipation most of the time. So, YEAH, things need to “move down”. AGREED.

Today she brought up the electricity again and I balked. She insisted that it is NOT like anything that touches the skin, because it does not touch the skin at all. I thought that I should give it a go myself to see how it is for SCIENCE. So I did. And, she is 100% correct: it is nothing like on the skin. At all. It just feels like a pulsation. I’d still say if you’re new to acupuncture, probably get used to the needles first, then move on to electricity. The reason she was keen to do it is because I’m not getting past these colon issues, and adding electricity to the acupuncture makes it MUCH more effective. We shall see, I guess. She told me that the electricity is used on the abdomen, but rarely the spine, due to the sensitivity of the spine. Makes sense. Here’s what it looks like:

Continue reading “Acupuncture for GERD session #3”

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– light accounting with Quickbooks (checkbook, general journal, various reports)
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Acupuncture for GERD Session 2

The second session with Dr Li is in the bag. Different places were done today and a couple were twangy, but mostly imperceptible. Dr Li was happy with my innovative way to take the Death Tea™! (See previous post for how to brew, store and take the Death Tea™ with minimum assault on your tastebuds!)

Visit went the same way as last time. Had a couple in my wrists this time and a few more in my lower leg. Also had a couple in my legs on the back this time. My spine was less sensitive this time, which is a good sign. My body freaked out for the first 10 minutes, as usual, but calmed down. I am extremely sensitive to any fiddling with my body. I don’t like it in general and I avoid it as much as possible. But I think this modality is going to work for me, so I tolerate it.

Dr Li asked if she could do electricity with them and I declined. I am VERY averse to electrical charge. I tried the Violet Wand: NOPE; I tried it with a facial: NOPE. She was fine with my refusal. My skin is uber sensitive to anything electric, I’d advise caution with the electricity if the needles are painful to you or you are new to acupuncture, I’d skip it.

Here are a couple of shots of me with all the needles in place. I’ve linked to the large version of the photos since the needles are so fine they are hard to see without zooming in. The needles are VERY fine, smaller than a pore, and they leave no trace. I also found out today that there are different lengths for different areas of the body, which makes sense, the wrist has much less flesh than the stomach or the leg. I’ll try to get a shot of them next time.

OK, I have four in abdomen, one in each wrist (inside), two on each leg, and two in each foot (I think). See if you can see them:

The needles are SO tiny! Yet I can feel the Qi being stimulated. I am also feeling results even with just two visits. My usage of Tums during the day has already dropped and Lil Tummy is feeling more robust and less bitchy. Of course, if I drink a lot, I know I’ll pay for it for a day or two, and I’m OK with that. But in general, I am starting to see some improvement. I hope it continues!

If you’ve ever considered acupuncture, I’d say give it a try. Find a Chinese Dr and go for it. It is worth a shot, particularly if nothing else has worked.